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Eco-friendly auto shop set to open in July

A business that bills itself as the only eco-friendly auto repair chain in America has plans to open a shop in Cottage Grove during the first week in July, the chain's area representative said.

Honest-1 Auto Care will open a Cottage Grove store at 80th Street Crossing (formerly the G-Will Center) following about seven weeks of improvements to the building, said area representative James Henkel.

Building improvements will be geared toward conservation and pollution prevention, including the installation of a boiler system fueled by used motor oils to heat the building, he said.

"We're going to replace everything in the shop that we can to reduce the power usage and make the building as eco-friendly as we can," he said. Because of the way the building is constructed, it was impossible to install light tubes -- which provide solar lighting -- but they plan to re-paint the walls bright white so they'll be reflective enough to cut down on the need for electric lighting, he said.

Rob Loftus, assistant vice president at United Properties, the property manager for the building, said the planned renovations will complement the recent improvements to the center such as its new monument sign and improved landscaping.

"The fresh look that will be added by the new operator in the auto care building will increasingly enhance the attractiveness of the center," Loftus said.

The shop will cater to families by including a kids play area in the lobby, he said.

"We're truly a good dealership alternative in that we offer all the amenities and services that a dealer can provide at significantly less price," he said.

The business will be independently owned and operated.

Honest-1 Auto Care will fill the space that has housed Hansen's Auto Care for 12 years.

Hansen's Auto Care owner Dan Hansen said he had hoped to buy the building, which was up for sale, but for personal reasons he wasn't able to secure financing when he sought it out last fall. He asked for more time to get financing to no avail, he said.

"I practically begged them," he said.

Loftus said through the course of a year of trying to secure financing, it became apparent that Hansen might not get the money, and so they continued to seek other purchasers of the site.

The company's goal is still to sell the building, and through due diligence they learned that the new operator does have the wherewithal to purchase the property, Loftus said.

The new owner has a lease with an option to buy the building.

Hansen had been on a month-to-month lease for about a year, and so on April 1, he got 30 days notice that he'd have to move his business. The first location he lined up just south of Cottage Grove in Denmark Township fell through due to a problem with the site's conditional use permit. Unable to find another site closer to Cottage Grove that wouldn't need major construction to fit his needs, Hansen found a site in Hastings, which at press time he was waiting to confirm he had approval to move into, he said.

The site, at 671 31st Street in Hastings, is already set up as an auto shop, and Hansen said he plans to start moving his shop there April 29 and be open for business on May 1.

Hansen said he hopes some of his customers will follow him to Hastings, and he's considering offering shuttle, pick-up and drop-off services to encourage it, but he also knows he can't rely on it.

"My faith is carrying me," he said. "I do believe God's got a plan."

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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